SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  15 September2011
Volume 12 Issue 9

Return to the Globe

SETAC North America Annual Meeting

How to Create a Successful SETAC North America Annual Meeting

By Sue Robinson, SETAC North America Technical Committee


  • Several measures of dedicated, volunteer SETAC Program Committee Members and Leadership
  • Generous sprinkling of dedicated SETAC North America Executive Director and Staff
  • One part previous year’s Annual Meeting Committee expertise
  • Dash of volunteer SETAC Board of Directors
  • Time (generous amount)
  • Patience (add liberally)
  • Hard work


Put all ingredients together. Let ingredients mingle and combine over a year. Watch the action level “rise” and the magic happen. Enjoy.  Servings:  more than 2500 annually.

Ever wondered what it takes to put on a SETAC North America (SNA) annual meeting? The recipe above is a light-hearted way of showing you that the bread doesn’t make itself. Planning for a such an event begins up to two years before the annual meeting actually occurs!

Meeting Location, Program Committee Formation

The planning begins when the SETAC office and the SNA Board of Directors (BoD) identify suitable meeting locations (an ongoing process) and potential meeting “chairs” for a given location. (Members can nominate individuals to chair meetings, by the way). Typically a SNA Annual Meeting has two co-chairs to make the effort easier to coordinate. The Program Committee (PC) Chairs are generally folks who are local to the meeting venue. Their time commitment is considerable, and selected chairs must have a commitment from their employer to have the time and resources to devote to chairing the Annual Meeting (again, that’s why there are often two co-chairs).

The PC Chairs then identify other SETAC members (local or otherwise) to join on one of many PC Subcommittees (more on these later). As with all leadership groups in SETAC, the PC strives for a balanced representation that mirrors SETAC’s membership: academic, business, government and non-governmental organizations; scientific disciplines such as chemistry, toxicology, risk assessment, ecology, and biology; and gender balance. Together the PC and the entire SNA staff work to make the SNA Annual Meeting happen (where the “bread” is actually baked).  

Meeting Activities and Responsibilities

The Annual Meeting is a reflection of the hard work of the wonderful volunteers in our Society who take on the mantle of responsibility and put on a great event. Meeting responsibilities are divided into two basic areas: 1) Organization and evaluation of the technical program and 2) meeting logistics. The former is the responsibility of the PC, while the latter is handled by the SNA office. The technical program and associated support activities handled by the PC are typically divided among multiple subcommittees that include scientific (sessions, platform, poster), special symposia, plenary speakers, short courses (half day and full day), exhibits, social activities (opening ceremony, fun run, tours), green committee (service projects, carbon offsets), student activities (Student-Mentor Dinner) and fund raising (letters to donors, identification and outreach to targeted sponsors). The SNA Technical Committee has become more involved with the annual meeting planning by providing a liaison to the PC Scientific Subcommittee for each meeting.

The SETAC office handles the actual logistics of the meeting venue: facility review and procurement; printed materials (program, meeting announcements, registration materials, abstracts, the badges we all wear); meeting transportation needs; security; meeting financials; selection, procurement and sales of SETAC memorabilia; coordination of audio-visual needs for platform sessions and all other physical issues at the meeting. With input from the PC, SETAC staff also develops the meeting website where members and nonmembers alike can access information on meeting topics that include news, registration and housing, student activities, exhibitors, technical program and short courses, social activities, sustaining and affiliate members and global partners, and other meeting supporters.    

Baking the Bread

The PC, its various subcommittees, and the SETAC executive and office staff get right to work at the conclusion of a successful SNA meeting to plan the next one. The subcommittees each independently begin their work in earnest (developing sessions, reviewing papers, securing plenary speakers, developing short courses, establishing a social program, coordinating student activities, raising funds, etc). All activities are linked as closely as possible to the meeting theme. The PC and SETAC staff participate on monthly conference calls to share subcommittee information, discuss issues, and report on progress. Subcommittees have many activities to undertake, and the monthly call (typically an hour or less) is the venue for overall coordination and information. Following monthly conference calls, the PC members can see the overall meeting vision beginning to get clearer.

Creative Side of the Meeting Planning

The creative minds of the PC provide input to the Annual Tuesday Night Social and also develop the theme for the meeting. The SETAC North America 32nd Annual MeetingSETAC North America 32nd Annual Meeting logo, set for 13-17 November 2011 in Boston, Mass., has a nautical theme to compliment the historical and nautical history of the original US colony! The theme is “Navigating Environmental Challenges: Historical Lessons Guiding Future Directions.” The website for the Boston meeting depicts old Boston Harbor, while the logo is an antique compass medallion. If you haven’t yet visited the Boston Meeting website, go to to see how it has all come together.

Moving Toward the Finish Line

A few months before the meeting (August timeframe), the technical program is settled and authors are notified that their platform or poster presentation is accepted, and session chairs organize their respective sessions. Final details are put in place for social programs, short courses, and remaining subcommittee activities in the same timeframe. Late August or early September, the schedule is set for PC members and SETAC staff for their arrival in town days ahead of the meeting’s start to begin the hard work of setting the two-year-long vision into motion. This involves setting up and staffing the various meeting venues (registration, exhibit hall, main ballroom for opening night, short course venues, poster set up, judging, etc) so that when attendees arrive, they are ready to enjoy yet another in a long line of successful annual meetings.

Please contact the SETAC office at, if you are interested in becoming involved in future meeting planning or other committees.  Our annual meetings only happen because of the dedication of SETAC members like you.

The next SNA Annual Meeting, its 33rd, will be held from 11-15 November 2012 in Long Beach, Cal. The theme for that meeting is “Catching the Next Wave: Advancing Science through Innovation and Collaboration,” and the website is currently being built.

Return to the Globe

SETAC mission statement Contact SETAC Globe
Contact the SETAC North America office
Contact the SETAC Europe office